Endangered California salmon returned to safer waters after more than a century

The good news comes from California today about the state-endangered Chinook salmon in the spring. Recently, a joint venture between California Fish & Wildlife, USFWS and the Bureau of Reclamation was launched to relocate endangered fish in Clear Creek in northern California, where flow conditions are most beneficial and viable for endangered species. anadromous fish. You can read more in the press release from the agencies involved, below!

From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, USFWS and the Bureau of Recovery:

State and federal biologists have begun relocating the spring-threatened Chinook salmon to Clear Creek in northern California, where colder water temperatures will better support the eggs and help their eggs survive the constant drought.

Teams from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are relocating the fish. Together, they will return about 300 winter Chinook salmon to their native habitat on the Eagle Canyon Dam in North Fork Battle Creek, about 20 miles east of Cottonwood, in Shasta and Tehama counties for the first time in more than 110 years.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which operates hydroelectric facilities at Battle Creek, coordinated operations to enable movement. It is one of a series of urgent actions to help local fish survive another year of sustained drought and high temperatures, lack of thiamine, predators and other stressors that devastated the Sacramento River population over the past two years below the Shasta and Keswick. .

(Two men in uniform close the lid of a large portable circulating tank placed in a small towing trailer) On April 22, 2022, CDFW staff prepare to transport adult, winter-driven Chinook salmon from Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery in Shasta County, Calif. in their historic habitat at Creek North Fork Battle to escape the coming summer heat and where their eggs and offspring will have a better chance of surviving. (CDFW Photo / Travis VanZant)

Agencies join forces

The CDFW, USFWS, NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Water Resources, and water users are coordinating efforts to save the state and federally protected species. Agencies are working closely with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, whose culture is intertwined with salmon in the area. Other actions include:

  • Management of limited water discharges deposited in the Shasta Reservoir on the Sacramento River, where additional egg gravel has been placed, to improve the likelihood that the liberated water will be cold enough to allow some Chinook salmon eggs in the river to survive.
  • Expanding production of Chinook juvenile salmon, run in the winter, at the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery operated by USFWS at the Shasta Dam base. The offspring produced in the nursery in recent years have helped save the species as most of their eggs in the wild have died. Small fish will be released into the river in stages when conditions are most welcoming in late fall and winter.
  • Spring-driven adult Chinook salmon movement back into the Sacramento River upstream of Clear Creek in Shasta County for fresher water and increased egg survival opportunities.
  • Increased elasticity of adult salmon transported by injections of thiamine (Vitamin B) to counter a deficiency that researchers believe has failed the survival of their offspring in recent years. The shortage has been linked to changing ocean conditions and feeding mainly salmon with anchovies compared to a more varied diet of fodder fish, krill and other species.
  • Tracking the survival and reproduction of transported fish as part of a scientific plan to learn from these actions to promote the climatic resilience of Chinook salmon. The research includes field studies to understand the productivity of historic habitats where winter Chinook salmon will be reintroduced.

Transportation of winter-grown Chinook salmon to Upper Battle Creek is based on the “jumpstart” reintroduction program that began in 2018 with annual juvenile salmon releases downstream. Many of the released fish migrated to the ocean and returned as adults to spawn, demonstrating that Chinook salmon can be restored by having a habitat that remains cool enough for their eggs to survive the summer.

Hydroelectric facilities and natural barriers prevent adult salmon from reaching the fresh, spring-fed waters of the upper North Fork Battle Creek about 3,000 feet above the Sacramento Valley floor. Juvenile offspring of transported adults hatching in the creek are expected to be able to swim downstream across the Eagle Canyon Dam and reach the Sacramento River.

(A large stream of raging water between rocks and trees) North Fork battle stream in Shasta County, California on April 22, 2022. (CDFW Photo / Travis VanZant)

Turning over Shasta

State and federal salmon recovery plans also require the return of winter Chinook salmon to its historic McCloud River egg habitat above the Shasta Dam and Reservoir. This requires a tool to collect juvenile salmon that hatch and try to swim down the river towards the ocean and must safely cross the 600-foot-high Shasta Dam. Agencies plan to test a pilot juvenile collection system this fall.

These efforts are part of a comprehensive program in the Sacramento Valley to address all phases of the freshwater life cycle to benefit the four Chinook salmon tracks in the region. Work will continue this year to advance science through the Sacramento River Science Partnership and to implement downstream river and stream projects to create additional egg habitats, lateral canal growth habitat, fish feed and removal migration barriers.

These efforts are also part of an ongoing long-term recovery effort to address climate change and provide greater resistance to salmon by expanding access to important habitats and landscapes, including reintroduction for eggs and growth over the Shasta Dam and Reservoir. , spawning in the upper reaches of Battle Creek, and food sources and safe haven in bypasses, oxbows and historic floodplains at the bottom of the system.

(A knee-deep man in a creek reaches a large blue pipe) CDFW senior environmental scientist Doug Killam holds a winter-run adult Chinook salmon before dropping it into the North Fork battle creek in Shasta county. The fish was trapped at the base of the Keswick Dam on the Sacramento River and sent by truck an hour away and released into its historic habitat in the North Fork battle stream to spawn. (CDFW Photo / Travis VanZant)

Comments from the Managers of the Agency

Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
“The historic introduction of winter-run adult Chinook salmon into the North Fork Battle Creek this spring will help secure another generation of this iconic endangered species. This reintroduction – combined with long-term efforts to restore the Battle Creek Basin and create a second winter population across the Sacramento River – means we are helping this species become more climate-resistant and drought-resistant. for a brighter future.

Paul Souza, Southwest Pacific Regional Director for the US Fish and Wildlife Service
“This marks the first time in many years that anadrom fish have been in Upper Battle Creek. The release of salmon in this country is critical during this third year of drought because the water temperatures are cooler and the habitat is more favorable for eggs. This move would not have been possible without the support of the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project, a collaborative effort between state, federal, and private agencies.

Ernest Conant, Regional Director of the Reclamation Bureau
“Strong collaboration is the key to managing the limited resources we have to work within the Sacramento River Basin for the third year in a row. “Together, we are taking unprecedented action to increase salmon productivity during one of the driest years on record.”

Jan Nimick, Vice President of PG&E Energy Generation
“PG&E recognizes the current critical situation for adult winter salmon this year and is pleased to be working with agencies to coordinate our project operations where we can support a successful salmon movement in cold water to support this action. urgent by the agencies. ”

Learn more at the link here: https://wildlife.ca.gov/News/endangered-california-salmon-returned-to-safer-waters-after-more-than-a-century

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